As farmers across the country continue to recover from crop devastation wrought by a plague of armyworm caterpillars, those in Koh Kong province are facing a new outbreak that is decimating young rice plants, officials said on Monday.
Despite efforts to limit the caterpillars’ destructive impact, some 600 hectares of rice fields in Koh Kong are now affected, said Meas Sopheap, head of the provincial agriculture department.
“They have been hitting very hard this week,” he said, with Botum Sakor and Sre Ambel districts bearing the brunt of the damage.
While Agriculture Ministry officials stressed last week that flooding the fields would be the most effective way to kill off the caterpillars—and that hungry ducks could speed up the process—Mr. Sopheap said new directives from the ministry called for more drastic measures, including sprinkling fields with a combination of sand and diesel fuel.
“When I informed the ministry about the problem, they advised us to use diesel,” he said, adding that the mixture was tested on Monday afternoon, with results expected today.
Dy Sam An, deputy director of the ministry’s crop protection department, said the new approach was meant to help farmers save money.
The sand-and-diesel solution costs approximately 2,000 riel (about $0.50) per hectare, compared to 12,000 riel (about $3) for pesticides, Mr. Sam An explained.
Mr. Sopheap said the worst of the early-June caterpillar outbreak—which affected 10 provinces—was over, as many of the caterpillars had transformed into harmless moths.
More than 20,000 hectares of vegetable and rice crops have been damaged by the caterpillars, he said, and more than 1,000 hectares destroyed—less than half the area destroyed in 1998, the last time weather conditions produced a similar plague.
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